About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

THE MEDIA AND THE PMC

The Private Military Company (PMC) will always find itself under attack from certain segments of the media. Whereas some of the attacks will be focussed on the fact that an under-siege government dared to use a PMC to assist them - instead of another agenda-driven government’s armed forces - a large amount of the attacks will be launched simply to discredit the PMC. But sadly, some of the media reports will be justified.

The fact of the matter is that some journalists are unable to cope with their responsibility of informing the public on what is happening. Instead, they prefer to focus on misinforming the public and thereby boost their own fragile egos. Fortunately, these journalists are in the minority but they taint everyone’s view of the PMC, regardless if it is deserved or not. Their actions overshadow those of the hard-working, ethical reporters of news. Furthermore, as they are quite prepared to accept money to write their false reports, they are the true mercenaries of the world.

From my own experience with a segment of the media that made it their mission to falsely discredit Executive Outcomes and myself on behalf of other paymasters, I discovered that to these “journalists” false reporting was, in essence, what gave them their raison d’être. Astonishingly, some were so-called intellectuals who wrote opinion pieces for which they were paid handsomely. In my mind, that constitutes fraud to the extreme.

Reading comments such as an “ex-apartheid soldier” or “ex-EO operative” or “ex-soldier” or “ex-policeman” simply entrenches my belief that some journalists cannot report objectively on matters that are of public interest. Yet, for some strange reason, they do not refer to “ex-Bush soldiers” or “ex-Blair” soldiers. Could this be part of their hypocritical make-up as far as South Africa is concerned?

These are the very people that give the media its bad name – something the hard-working, honest and ethical journalists ought to take action on – and take responsibility for. If not, the media will continue its slide into subjective reporting and promotion of agendas.

This does, however, not exonerate the PMC from any blame or make the PMC’s efforts any easier. These types of companies will always come under attack by misguided and irresponsible journalists and it remains the duty of the companies to keep their noses clean. But it remains a problem when journalists use insinuations and innuendo in their reporting – these grey areas are almost impossible to counter or even defend.

It is also the responsibility of the PMCs to ensure that the industry cleans up its act and gets rid of the wannabe-Rambos and their irresponsible actions. The military and law enforcement contracting industry has no place for ill-disciplined, alcohol and steroid-fuelled, untrained, disrespectful and poorly led men wearing too tight T-shirts and dark glasses. It is time that PMCs realise that they are guests in the contracting country and ought to behave in accordance to the laws of that country where they may be working. These companies should furthermore realise that the conduct of one can influence the entire company and even jeopardise a contract.

But, just like death and taxes, the media and the PMCs are here to stay. Both the media and these companies ought to accept that fact.

Whereas the relationship between the media and the PMC will always be a rocky one, there are some things that the PMC can do to smooth the road or at least ensure that it gets a fair press.

1. Appoint a designated media spokesperson who understands the media
2. Do not let other employees speak to the media
3. Find and work with ethical, responsible journalists – they do exist
4. When journalists colour their reporting with insinuations and innuendo, make every effort to determine who is paying them to do this – and expose them publicly – even if they are working for an intelligence service
5. Be pre-emptive with press releases
6. Do not employ people who will cause embarrassment to the company and whose past actions will continue to be used against the company
7. Strictly vet every employee, prior to employing him/her
8. Be as transparent as possible without divulging any client-sensitive information
9. When the media gets it wrong, make every effort to rectify the false perceptions that may be caused
10. Don’t lie or try to white-wash over serious events
11. Make sure all press releases are distributed to all media outlets
12. Do not give unnecessary interviews
13. When giving interviews, refrain from boasting
14. Be prepared for every interview – know as much as you can about the journalist who is about to interview you – even those things he/she does not want anyone to know about
15. Stick to the facts.

But, many of the “stories” fed to the media originate from within the intelligence services. It would serve the PMCs well to develop their contacts within the intelligence services to determine planned agendas and disinformation operations against them – and then to act pre-emptively. If necessary, these players within the intelligence services should also be exposed publicly. Whereas there exists an official secrets act in all nations, the acts are to safeguard the secrets of the state and not hide the nefarious actions of some of its members.

57 comments:

Monkey Spawn said...

Firstly, let me compliment you on this article. Without being sycophantic, this is one of the best written pieces I have read in many years. In commenting on journalists, you prove yourself rather adept at the profession yourself! Structure, clarity, sagacity and interesting content - truly inspired and inspiring.

Your fifteen points of advice are relevant in any sector under intense negative press. The communications departments at the global banks could do with some of your advice. In the security field you face disinformation, but in the complex world of finance you find ignorance. Both are fodder for the lazy or easily-manipulated journalist. We need to remember that journalists are typically generalists; they write about things they know very little about. As a consequence, they are not able to discern fact from fable, despite being in a privileged position to have a strong influence on public opinion.

Very few journalists understand the complexities that contributed to the current financial crisis, yet how many articles have we seen lambasting the CEOs and executives of the banks? Public opinion, therefore, is highly charged based on very few facts and less understanding. In the same way, few journalists understand what PMCs and PSCs really do and how they work with, or in place of, traditional military and security forces. Why try to light a fire with wet wood? The vocal bleating of liberals is dry tinder. It’s easier and quicker to write a piece that the journalist knows will ignite and fan the flames of the mass opinion than to write a properly researched article that stands up to informed critique.

Unfortunately, in many cases, you need to tackle the disinformation playing the same game. Get journalists onto your side. As an example, the Citizen saga – a tabloid, rather than a broadsheet – was, despite it’s eventually derailing, a master stroke. While I’m not suggesting that you buy a newspaper, securing influence with the media is a necessary evil. Balancing blatant propaganda with proper information is the tricky part.

While I agree with your point 11 (press releases to all parties), the allocation of time and effort needs to match the levers of influence and the situation. A PMC client is more likely to read Jane’s than The Star. A defensive, reactive media campaign for PSC activity (eg Blackwater’s bad press) would be better tackled through the popular media (eg CNN) for the masses and a focussed medium (eg Washing Post) for the politicians.

A significant contributor to the American’s defeat in Vietnam and an impending effective defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan is their failure to deal with public opinion at home. I would be interested in your opinion and comments on two points: firstly, “embedded” journalists. Help or Harm? Secondly, the recent change in US policy on television reporting of returning mortal remains. Is it part of the new administration’s attempt to swing public opinion in advance of a pull-out?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for the compliment, Monkey Spawn. It is much appreciated.

As for being a journalist, I cannot recall who said: “Don’t tell my mother I am a journalist – she thinks I am the piano player in a whore house” – but I can honestly report that I am no journalist.

I believe you have smacked the nail on the head regarding the ignorance as this trait is common amongst many reporters. But, I know some good journalists who make a point of understanding what they are writing about and make every effort to ensure that they get their facts correct. But very sadly, they are not in the majority. Others do try to write about complex subjects without understanding exactly what they are writing so I am sure that that in itself can be hamper efforts at objective reporting.

Your point on the financial crisis and reporting to ignite the flames are so true. As you correctly note, very few journalists have written about the real causes of the financial crisis. Instead, I see it being glossed over. Ditto on PMCs except that in this instance it is mostly about false reporting and feeding someone else’s agendas.

The Citizen was indeed a master stroke and it served its purpose very well. Getting a journalist on one’s side can be difficult – especially if you are competing against those miscreants who feed them so-called intelligence under “Secret” classifications. Whereas one can understand their desire to lap it up, one needs to question their inability to confirm it. But, it is necessary that PMCs talk to them and get them to see the other side of the argument as well.

I do not entirely agree with you that a client would rather read Jane’s than the newspaper. Surprisingly, very few clients I have worked with read Jane’s as they view it (rightly or wrongly) as disinformation. But, if an article is written on a PMC, it is very quickly picked up by most news wires and quickly gets added to – and that the client sees, regardless of whether it is fact or fiction, and it still colours his views.

Ironically, in the days of EO the visual news media gave EO very good and positive coverage. But, the average person did not see it. Instead, it was the false headlines that caught attention. I know that I am harping on about this but it was only relatively recently that the print media actually apologised to me for what they did. But, as I have often said, it came several years too late.

Personally, I don’t believe in embedded journalists at all. The military has its own journalists and they should be used. Giving someone access to strategy, tactics and actual happenings on the ground is in my opinion not a good thing. How many of those embedded people later write extensively about what they perceive as the negatives of a campaign – once they are no longer embedded?

But the SADF, on the other hand, was too selective about the reporting it allowed. This has, now that the war is over, created a lot of problems, especially to those men who fought there as the Cubans are claiming victory for certain actions and our ex-generals are disputing that. Had there been some coverage of battles, it might have been different. So, it is a difficult balance to achieve.

As for showing the return of fallen soldiers: I have long believed that it is part of a campaign to fuel voters to call for an end to the campaigns – something the US govt seems keen to do. This will result in them being able to say that they are withdrawing due to public opinion and not because of any other reason.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Being part of what can best be described as the "alternative media" it's been my experience that many if not all so called reporters/journalists/broadcasters have a agenda and fail the most basic principles of "journalism" reporting the truth.

I can only assume that none of them ever understood the timeless philosophy of Socrates

The most arresting feature of Socrates’ legacy is his unique method of teaching and arriving at the truth. Socrates didn’t claim the truth is this or the truth is that. He sought to question students in a way that would lead them to arrive at the truth themselves. Socrates frequently claimed to know nothing. Yet, if Socrates knew nothing, why were people so eager to hear him talk? The reason was that Socrates was able to make people reconsider their own ingrained ideas; Socrates had a way of making people think for themselves and consider truth from different angles.This method of conversation incurred the ire of some people; they were not happy that Socrates was able to show the limitations of their thinking. Yet, the genius of the Socratic method was that he never had to directly tell people their inadequacies; they came to realise it themselves.

TCO said...

Eeben this is an article that had I requested you write you could not have done a better job. This piece has it all. Truth, honesty, personal experience but most importantly it has clear actions and steps that PMCs can and should take to mitigate the damage that vengeful media can do. There is not doubt that in most cases a journalist and a PMC'er are about as far apart on the spectrum as you are likely to find.

I commend you for making the point that the onus really falls on the PMC first and foremost to run an 'above board' operation and this significantly reducing the chances of the company skylining themselves through poor performance which invites warranted criticism but also brings with it unwarranted forms as well.

Well done.

Jake

userdude said...

Hello Eeben,

Interesting post. The 15 points you give (other than maybe #4, although from a game theory POV, this is critical) are PR 101; anybody representing an organization in tactical or situational crisis should abide by those rules, regardless.

I would add that it must also be understood who are saying what about you. Sometimes the initiative is better taken before an enemy (or careless or unprofessional) ally muddies the water.

Maybe that gets to the point I think you seem to stress most: Be professional. Being boastful, being a liar - those are not characteristics of a professional operation.

I was reading recently that counter-intelligence is often thought of as spy-vs-spy, like a cartoon - and that counter terrorism seems to be the hot profession of the moment.

And I can't help but wonder if that is because it is harder to be a counter intelligence agent than almost anything else. Because it is really much more than countering some spy ring; a CI agent must have extensive historical, political and tactical knowledge of enemies and understand an amazing amount of detail as it relates to short and long term strategy. That never gets acknowledged (especially now that CT seems to be en vogue, like the boogeyman who can't be predicted), and the CI agent may go to their grave never knowing any "truth" related to those actions they have taken. It's a tough spot.

As a PR rep for a PMC, they must be able to stick to their talking points and not be drawn into unprofessional or distasteful dialogues (they are essentially political apparatuses). However, the PMC must have a well-developed plan for what that information will be and why it is being released. It is probably a revelation to some PMC's that they must do their own PR work.

One question: Should the PR rep be the formulator of counter intelligence for a PMC?

Thanks!
Jared

matt said...

Excellent post, and this is the kind of stuff that other companies can really learn from. In the federal government, we had information officers who dealt with the media exclusively. All of us field guys were instructed not to talk with the media, and instead give them a name and number of who to talk to about the fire. This needs to be happening in the PMC industry, and I have yet to work for a company that had a information officer or media relations officer that I could direct stuff towards.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Robby. The greatest problem I experienced was a lack of integrity within some of these reporters. They believed that the truth should never be used to spoil a good story.

As for Socrates’s approach to life, it remains valid in everything we do. The military appreciation bases a lot of its approach to this methodology.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Jake. Of course, it can be elaborated on… a point being the methods a PMC adopts to Public Relations. I believe that the PMCs ought to make a greater effort in rectifying perceptions instead of sticking their heads in the sand and hoping the bad press will simply wither away.

As you rightly point out, the media and the PMC are poles apart. But we ought to view that as a challenge and not an obstacle – nor should we simply “surrender” to unscrupulous journalism.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

PR remains important, Jared, but not in the same way as it does within a business corporation. I believe that everyone in the PMC is responsible for the PR as their conduct, efficiency, attitude, integrity and so forth all influence how they are perceived by others. However, transmitting that message ought to be with the media spokesperson.

Given my experience with the media, taking the initiative can have draw-backs, especially when one is up against “agents of influence” (which is what many journalists in my time were) as they will make something out of nothing. But one must be pre-emptive at all times iro accidents, deaths, crimes committed by members and subsequent actions, etc.

I have never been – and never will be – ashamed of what EO did. In fact, EO achieved more than the UN and several powerful Western governments, etc. But, EO consisted of men (and not me alone) who did everything they were called on to do. Some exceeded that call. Others died in the execution of their duties. Those are facts that cannot be hidden. Point I am trying to make, one cannot hide facts but one should also not try to hide them. Your point on being professional refers.

CI operations are highly complex operations that require detailed planning and extreme insight into the adversary – ref the points you make. It is truly a wilderness of mirrors but it can be penetrated. Agents can be turned, barium meals fed, agents compromised and so on. In the intelligence world, it is probably the most challenging career but also a career that calls for absolute honesty and integrity. But, CI also has its more mundane tasks…

No, the PR/media spokesperson should not have anything to do with intelligence and counter intelligence work.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Matt. I can however understand the reluctance of PMCs to talk to the media – I am not advocating a relationship where they trade stories with one another – but PMCs ought to be more pre-emptive in their actions. If we do not do this, the media will continue its slander and get away with it.

PMCs should view the media in much the same light as one would view “Enemy” in operational planning. Determine its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and work at exploiting and negating where possible.

Rgds,

Eeben

L said...

I am sadly reminded of a friend who argued I was playing "Devil's advocate" when I said there was an important and legitimate role for PMCs, and that the "overwhelming evidence points to them being an evil of our times" (I'm paraphrasing a bit, I don't think evil was the word but it was the intent). When I asked about this "overwhelming evidence", I got referenced to Blackwater et al.

I think that's what has done the most damage to the PR of the PMCs recently. Yes relations have always been poor, but the Iraq war cemented the view of the PMC as a shadow trigger-happy mercenary hit-squad without accountability that performs duties that government forces should be doing, for a higher cost. And as you mention, in some cases this is true. Most people don't realize that a lot of PMC work is actually on the logistics end. In the end for the layman, the images of "soldiers of fortune" and "mercenaries" are simply more memorable and interesting than the reality of what a private military contractor does today.

L said...

Oh yes, I must also confess that coincidentally that was pretty much my perspective on what PMCs were until of all things, I stumbled upon the wikipedia entry for EO. While it's not a bastion of reliable information (quite a bit of what's in there is dubious), at least it presents a fuller, more complex picture of EO than traditional sources ever did. Politicians and many organizations are starting to use the internet to establish a dialogue with the public without a distorting middleman. Perhaps PMCs could do the same.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whereas a lot of what is written may be true, L, a lot of it isn’t. But a front-page lie is bound to entrench itself in the minds of the readers. I suppose that the role of the PMC can be construed as a necessary evil but then, centuries ago, the “PMC” was what assured the integrity of the State and did its bidding when under attack.

Iraq and Afghanistan have sadly been a draw-card for a lot of men who should never even have been allowed to hold a gun. It is these types that have slandered the name of many good men who serve in PMCs. The industry should rid itself of these legends-in-their-own lunchtimes – that is something of prime importance. But, they are the ones who see themselves as Rambo’s little brothers and love to boast to journalists.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

One of the problems with the internet is that you can publish a lie on it for the entire world to see, L. This lie then gets used in a research doc or a media report and gets spun so many times that it eventually appears as the truth.

As an example, wikipedia’s entry under EO states: “Scholar James Ferguson has demonstrated how murky the political/social/economic space organizations like the EO occupy is in practice. It is often unclear. He quotes an Amnesty International report which wonders, "what legal framework, if any, [these companies] are operating within." For example, the EO provided the military force to back the ARRC's (Africa Rainforest and River Conservation) efforts” The fact that this “Scholar” is lying about EO is irrelevant to the entry. But, such idiotic comments remain there for posterity.

When EO was operating, we had a website that was under constant attack by those that wished to continue their agendas against us. Although they never totally succeeded, it was of immense nuisance value.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Hi Eeben

I also belief that the coverage of incidents and work of PMC’s are being controlled by government and their agencies.
A few years ago some South African contractors were involved in the attempted overthrow of a government in Africa.
This operation was green lighted by the South African government under the then pres. Mbeki, the British, Spanish and American governments.
My point is, when the SA government sold the group out, all media coverage was directed at how bad these guys were, how bad PMC’s were etc.
After all the guys were finally acquitted on all charges in a court in Zimbabwe and later in SA, very little coverage was given as to the involvement of any of the mentioned governments.
No investigative journalism was done to make the involvement of the SA government and other agencies public at the time.
A few weeks after the last court case in SA, everything was swept under the rug, and nothing mentioned again. The government and its agencies accurately controlled the press and escaped with zero flack on their part, but succeeded in tainting the reputation of those operators and security companies.

L said...

It's surprising how many people (reporters even) use wikipedia as a reference (it shouldn't be, by their own admission they're not a quotable source and serve as a primer) and while the ease with which lies propagate through that medium is unnerving, the beauty of the wiki format is exactly that it's not "up for posterity", when something is wrong in wiki it takes a few minutes to correct it, all it takes is a reader that doesn't take it at face value and actually checks sources. It's easier and quicker to debunk a myth there than in conventional media. I'd also have to point out that internet security tech has come a long way since EO was dissolved. Then again, it hasn't really kept pace with Anonymous. But I'm rambling. What I'm trying to point out here is that the internet is changing traditional media relationships and there are particular oportunities and risks in that aspect.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your points are well taken, L. As regards wikipedia, I deleted the false scholarly info but someone kept putting it back – much like the idiot he/she is but they obviously wish to make sure that the lie stay. So, I lost interest in continually rectifying it. Besides, I have better things to do that sit and watch what is posted on myself or EO.

Yes, the internet is changing the face of traditional media but is still remains open to massive disinformation.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree with you on that, John. That is why the PMCs should make it their business to identify the miscreants in the media who take their orders from governments and such agencies to produce false reporting or to deflect attention off their stuff-ups.

Apart from poor security re the incident you mention, the person who was appointed as the “leader” of this silly mission was someone who should never have been even considered. Yes, governments were involved – that is an open secret – but the “leader” was ill-chosen and proved that he did not care about his men when the bubble burst. That much is obvious in how he was treated and how his men were treated during their incarceration.

The media kept foreign government involvement out of it as they lack the courage to take on the real “baddies” in this episode. Of course, books have already been written about it (“The Wonga Coup” springs to mind) and it too was just another whitewash of the guilty and a further perpetuation of lies.

Yes, the reputation of those involved – many recruited under false pretences – was severely tarnished and it suited governments that this happened. The media lacked the moral courage to investigate the entire situation and it was much easier to blame the innocent parties involved than take on the governments who were actually (apparently) guilty of planning the coup.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

I absolutely agree - everyone should have basic training as to how media and PR work. It just makes sense, professionally.

At an EHS academy I attended, a guy by the name of Bob Emery gave a seminar on dealing with the media. His attitude was, help the media get the story and facts right, usually with preparation and a focus on what is known, put forth in plain, unambiguous language. Be quotable without controversial, and (his biggest point) have prepared research for the journo to use as cliff notes, so they have the opportunity to get it right or at least accurate without having to do any hard work. It is good to prepare information packages like this in advance, since it could be 3am when the cameras are turned on you.

A reporter, if not corrupted or compromised, wants the story to work but will resort to sensationalism without accurate information. They may sensationalize anyways untruths and misinformation, to get the story, but that's hard to control, so it has to be prefactored.

It's the nature of novice observation to use imagination in place of realistic knowledge when formulating a storyline.

A perfect example is a bit of journalistic gallows humor - "Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?" If you play by rules that are dictated to you by someone with an agenda, even just to get a "story", you will be horribly behind.

Of course, many call managing this spin and despise it wholeheartedly.

But that's what professional PR firms do. Go figure.

Another question: Should PMC's cultivate in back channels relationships with journos?

Thanks!
Jared

simon said...

Robby hit the nail on the head. To me true journalism should be neutral in its pursuit of truth. However, the media is a business whatever puts money in the bank is what they write. The US has a cable news and newspaper war going on right now. Papers are going bankrupt. They made their living bashing the former president and now they have nothing left to bash.

Fox is obviously conservative but there are a couple of shows that genuinely 'report and let you decide'. The journey for truth cannot start with bias.

My college professor told me once, Quit worrying about whether something is right or wrong and dig out the facts. You'll learn so much more if you leave your bias aside.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is very important to help the media, Jared. The problem is when certain journalists in the media do not want to be helped as they already have an agenda. Also, if one has research ready for some of these people, they simply discard it as it does not match their “story” – I know as I have been down that road.

Fortunately, not all journalists are of that shady cloth and the PMCs should seek out the good, non-agenda carrying journalists and give them “scoops” and work at getting them onsides – but in an open manner. Conversely, I believe we should ALL work at exposing the wanna-be’s. That includes the media itself. Using imagination instead of fact is highly unprofessional and unethical and deserves to be exposed at all costs.

Should PMCs cultivate back-channels? I think PMCs should do whatever it takes to get the true story out. If that means cultivating people in the media, so be it. But, this can be a dangerous game especially if the PMC tries to use it as a disinfo channel.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

As you and Robby rightfully point out, Simon, true journalism is reporting the facts and allowing the receiver to decide. In SA too the papers are having a hard time and I have no sympathy for some of them as their main sources (read “official disinfo sources”) have steadily dried up.

One journo who was famous for attacking EO ended up as the editor of a paper – which failed dismally. Why? Possibly his “sources” could no longer feed him credible lies. Then he wanted to sue me about the EO book but unfortunately for him, his Mil Int file was close at hand.

Your college professor was a wise man.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Simon....The hardest part for those that search for the truth as Socrates said is to be able to take everything you thought to be true and question it.

For me that was tough I had to deal with the legacy of Cecil John Rhodes and work my way forward,for Americans it would be akin to defrocking George Washington.

I don't think the demise of print journalism in America has anything to do "bashing" George Bush after all the collective media was in full support of going to war

Print journalism is just dealing with the fact that people today want instant information reading newspapers is like reading yesterdays news

As for FOX I have to disagree with you its a joke and is the reason conservatives will spend the next 40 years wondering in the desert,there is nothing conservative about FOX I cannot name one show they have that I can call fair and balanced.It's as biased and wrong as it's left wing counterparts CNN,ABC,NBC,CBS etc.

It is unfortunate that the so called leading conservative voices in America today are made up of delusional morons such as Hanniety,O'Rielly and soon Huckabee and don't get me started on Rush.Norman Podhoretz,William Krystil,Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Richard Perle etc

All of the above have one thing in common Leo Strauss I'll leave that with you to do your own research

If conservatives in America hope for a return to power the only solution is to banish everyone of the current crop of Republicans and rebuild from scratch....which should take about 40 years

userdude said...

Hello Eeben,

There will always be unprofessional journalists, just as some PMC's will be not be above board.

However, I think it's useful to concentrate on the positive aspects of a PMC's obligations and professionalism. Dr. Emery (Bob) calls this the goodwill factor or goodwill narrative.

A good example of this is this "story" put out by his institution that I thought you might enjoy:

"Safety Bob" Emery starts internship to get disabled vets into new careers

This is no joke; Bob is a very giving and selfless guy, and possibly one of the smartest, ne brilliant, people I've had the pleasure of knowing. He means what he does.

In the end, this is a positive, feel-good story about an issue most people are uncomfortable with but hope good things are happening, somewhere. So if something bad happens in some other area, not only is he prepared with a response, but there is a groundwork of goodwill setup. They know his operation and feel comfortable that he is an expert.

There will always be good and bad; there will always be positives and negatives. For the teeming masses reading the morning paper though, there needs to be a balance; part of the initiative needs to be doing good work and making sure common people know about it.

PMC's work in a world most people think of fearfully. Next to oil companies, they are probably the easiest targets for muckraking. There isn't a whole lot of inherent goodwill for oil companies or anything with "private" and "military" as a descriptor.

I think spending too much time on bad journalism ultimately misses the point; PMC's need to be adept at telling their story truthfully and honestly and directly, with an eye on the fact they are easy targets for populist rhetorical anger.

Thanks!
Jared

Gatvol said...

When it comes to the Media today it appears all is driven by Money, Ratings and the Political mindset of the Executives of the form of Media in question. Bottom line.
If facts or truth get in the way of the above its not going to get reported, but distorted.

Robby mentions "delusional morons " when refering to the entertaiment on the right side, Im curious how James Carville might fit in.
Media on television or radio are certainly entertaiment. The purpose is to fatten their pockets. I think thats a given. If one watches or listens to them its more likely than not that the song they are singing is at least something those who watch or listen to them side with.
I have not seen or heard "news" in about twenty years.

Alex said...

First off, thanks for another fascinating article. I've been following the blog for a couple of months now and having someone with your depth of experience regularly analysing such topics is invaluable to anyone taking the time to read it. I also just finished reading your book, which I have to say taught me (as a Brit and therefore shockingly unschooled in African history, considering our ancestors liked to consider we more or less owned the place) as much about African history, politics and conflicts as it did about your company and its exploits.

The book also puts your recent article in particular context given the relentless campaign you and your colleagues suffered from the media. I had been vaguely aware that EO suffered from 'bad press' during its existence but the extent to which seemingly everyone, in SA and beyond, wished to defame and destroy you was incredible to discover. The suspicion surrounding PMCs is understandable in the public for various reasons, mainly ignorance and the seeming inability, everywhere from the layman to the UN, to separate modern PMCs and their personnel from the medieval, and seemingly largely obsolete, concept of the amoral mercenary who cares not for either their clients or their enemies. Once the media, public and world community recognise the invaluable role such companies can play where governments will not risk their own troops, real differences could be made in seemingly intractable situations (as mooted in your article on the 'war on drugs'; if I ever hear you have indeed been approached by a government willing to contract you to wage a proper campaign, and have accepted, I will count it a good day indeed). However, the fact this would mean implicitly admitting their own ineptitude, in Africa and elsewhere, makes this unrealistic to say the least.

It would appear that bringing the media around is the first step in allowing PMCs to play a useful role in the various theatres where there is potential for them to play a truly positive role (I use 'PMC' here to refer to professional and reliable outfits, as EO seemed to remain despite adverse circumstances). Once using PMCs is not seen by the public so negatively, one can only hope governments and international organisations will follow suit and make use of them where appropriate.

I do have one off-topic question; how did you come up with the name 'Executive Outcomes'? I have long thought it much the best name of any PMC I've heard of and am rather curious as to its origin! (I realise it was established as a front for intelligence work originally, but even in that role it had the right ring to it, in my opinion).

Thanks again for the blog. It really is a valuable resource to have available and has been a permanent feature of my web browser for a while now. As someone with a strong interest in the topics but no first-hand experience of the military, politics or Africa, I find it a great help in discovering and learning of issues in these areas.

Regards,

Alex

simon said...

Well after a cursory search of your post, I will be busy researching for awhile. My preference for Fox is my disdain for the alternative. Sometimes I prefer no news at all. Its kind of like the radio and music. I cant listen to the music I love the best because they wont play it, so I settle for what I can Like so to speak.

Politics in general over this last campaign season really sullied my palate for politicians. The victor in the elections ...well, I felt like it was one huge subliminal campaign that created zombies Id never seen before in elections.It made me realize the power of the institutions of media. You can choose A or B. there is no c,d,e or anything else.

I dont listen to Rush.....

I majored in ancient history in college so I took your look at socrates as a point well made. I grapple with the idea of citizenship in my country. Our culture is dramatically changing before our eyes. Its like being a third party candidate. The system itself will not allow it to succeed. Like Socrates, they will entertain you only so long before they find a way to kill you. thanks for the input.
Regards, Simon

drew8ear said...

Reporters and many civilians (US) do not know or understand the military operations or the military anymore, especially since we’re volunteer force. Most westerner’s have been blessed enough to live in very safe environments and have trouble understanding evil.

Part of the problem is that right and wrong is gone, and like another poster pointed out there are many generalists. Journalists and many NGO personnel from the western world go to the same pretentious colleges and share the same moral relativistic views that a PMC or military member is just as bad as the terrorist. These people make my blood boil.

Most media outlets are biased and sound bit driven. I don’t think any of them are truly fair or balanced. Most reporters are globalists and elitists who spend their two weeks in a down trodden country amongst the “indigenous” people to earn their “noble global citizen” badge at cocktail parties.

PMC's like Black Water are labeled trigger happy for shooting their way out of an ambush. The common tactic to break an ambush is to aggress through it with fire and maneuver. Sadly terrorists hide behind their children and wives because family is going to heaven if they die. The last time Black Water did nothing they had two or three contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, burnt to a crisp by the local population. PMCs and the regular military (in Iraq) are fighting an insurgency were terrorists hide in schools, mosques, hospitals or family houses. You will occasionally run into an overzealous, psychopathic killer in PMCs and in the military, but most of the time the guys are doing their job and try to use appropriate force only. A dangerous situation you volunteered for doesn’t allow you a “pray and spray” free card, but you do have the right to defend yourself especially if fired upon.

From what I’ve read on EO and seen in “documentaries” it seemed to be doing the job the UN couldn’t do and NATO wouldn’t (and probably shouldn’t) do. The guerrillas in some of those countries where hacking peoples’ arms off, randomly raping civilians and using child soldiers to spread fear and terror. I don’t know if the claims of excessive payments are true, but I don’t think saving African countries from chaos would be cheap, especially with the logistics.

Andrew - PDX

borr1945 said...

I can see the damage done on both
sides of this issue. I have trained
at blackwater. I can say that the people I have met there were professional and some of the best people I have ever met. However, because of the negative media and the image of the pmc protrayed by them. I learned to keep my mouth shut about it. Even when I mentioned being there to a former
us army soldier. I heard the comments about those "bunch of murders." When I asked about working for this security company.
I was told about the need to follow
thier "code of ethics" and not any
that I learned at blackwater. Thus,
I have felt the results of the
liberal coverage done by the american media. It has not been fun.

However, I think blackwater's down
fall has to do with it's attempt to court the media in the wrong way. By the stories in Men's Journal and in books written about
pmc's they cultivate the cowboy
image. They commercialized the
business with t-shirts and trinkets. Something, I do not see
triple canopy or halliburton doing.
Even now, the new company Xe is
staying very low key.

I believe that this is the way pmc companies need to be. After all,
don't most of the pmc's come from
the special forces community known
as the "quiet proffessionals."

ken

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Again you raise some very interesting points, Jared. There are many positive aspects related to PMCs but if the media are out to get you, they will. Example in case: We (EO) used to sponsor a lot of things, mainly on the quiet as we felt no great need to trumpet it to all and sundry. When those things came out, the media intensified its attacks. So, whereas one can focus on positive things, a biased media will attack you.

Dr Emery’s story is truly inspiring, thanks!

Your point :”I think spending too much time on bad journalism ultimately misses the point; PMC's need to be adept at telling their story truthfully and honestly and directly, with an eye on the fact they are easy targets for populist rhetorical anger” is well taken but I still believe that the media needs balance and the PMCs need to clean up their acts.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is all about “fattening their pockets”, Gatvol. That is the foundation of capitalism. But, when it is done with total disregard of their own profession, I think it makes them more mercenary than even the organisations that protect the drug cartels.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comments, Alex. The perception the layman has of PMCs is caused by unprofessional actors in the industry and of course, the media. Both are to blame for the current state of affairs but I place the blame on the media for irresponsible journalism and an inability to confirm what their sources give them.

Ironically, African governments are keen to use PMCs but find themselves hemmed-in by Western governments who want to rather force their own troops on the African governments – troops who will give them poor training, poor advice and act as the conduit of intelligence for their services. The UN on the other hand do not want a professional, efficient PMC operating as it merely illustrates their gross ineptitude and lack of will. Furthermore, a PMC will deprive the UN of income… So, the UN views PMCs as a threat to their continued failed missions.

The name was derived from “Outcome” – the ultimate goal. “Executive” came from hard action ie “executive Action”. EO was never a front for an intelligence service but it worked in the intelligence fields of organised crime and later targeting rebel groups where we were working.

I too learn a lot form the comments people post on the blog so I am pleased that their input is also of interest to you.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The last sentence in your post was very true, Simon.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That has been one of the failings of our modern society, Alex. People have no idea how they ended up living in a safe environment and the sacrifices that were made by a few so that they can enjoy their freedom. But, as soon as the pawpaw hits the fan, they immediately want to know where the soldiers are who should be protecting and defending their freedom. When they don’t need to make that call, they quite happily attack everyone.

On his weekly SITREP, Jake ends off with a quote from Alexander the Great “Upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all” (www. http://combatoperator.com). This is a very apt motto for both PMCs and the media to bear in mind.

Ironically, the guerrillas you mention where EO was working were mainly supported by the West – their brief was to seize control over the countries by any means possible – including terrorism. Strange how the West has finally woken up to the results of a dangerous game they played.

The claims of excessive payments and mineral concessions always make me laugh. These were claims the media made – not our bankers, who could tell a vastly different story, based on actual amounts that came into our accounts. I have yet to find all of the mines we were supposedly given…

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A lot of what you point out has to do with professional jealousy, Ken.

I agree that the PMC needs to keep a low profile but sometimes it needs to expose itself to the media. How that is done will determine the way forward. I like your comment the “quiet professionals”.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alex said...

First off, apologies for my mistake regarding EO's founding (I have the book next to me and I think I confused the fact you were in SA intelligence at the time for the company being inherently linked to it; couple of weeks since I read that part!). In fact, it sounds like a rather inspired idea for gaining the necessary flexibility for your activities.

It is shameful the way governments of the West (quite possibly including mine) treat Africa and its people. I recall an article of yours from a couple of months ago opening with an account of a friend of yours in a European military explaining their 'aid missions' to badly train (read 'sabotage') African militaries. This had always mystified me somewhat as African states have plenty of manpower for their armies, and I'm sure plenty of (actually or potentially) good soldiers, so why are they so unable to deal with bands of psychopaths like the LRA and RUF? Alas the West seems incapable of accepting an end of imperialism and letting the continent go its own way.

The role played by MI and other parts of the government in the campaign waged against EO was incredible in and of itself, but I also find myself wondering about the veracity of any claims made by media outlets on PMCs and other contentious subjects since reading of the games played in SA in the previous decade. Although, as pointed out here, the true role of the media should be plain reporting of facts and events, this is not a realistic expectation given the number of agendas floating around in every arena of human affairs. The goal you espouse of both the media and the PMCs rooting out and exposing the rotten elements of themselves seems much the best solution, and has the potential to be the best solution for all involved.

Thanks for the link to Jake's site. I listened to your discussion with him a while ago but have yet to fully explore his site so I'll check it out.

Best of luck finding your missing mines...

Cheers

Alex

Robby said...

Simon...When your only choice is between two evils one should not be shocked by what you end up with.However this does not absolve the media from doing it's job be it FOX or CNN

Heres a timely article
The American news media is Big Brother’s public relations department, like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth!
http://www.newswithviews.com/Murray/randy114.htm

What I find very ironic at present is the attention now being paid to the Somali pirates neither party knows how to solve it because of their pregidous toward Africa and yes PMC's

Not to single out America the west in general is clueless about Africa, western solutions have never worked .... solving the pirate issue is pretty simple (just ask Eeben) only problem for the west is that the solution is politically incorrect.

Not to rub it in but here we have 4 Somali's bobbing around in a life boat with the US Navy standing by with enough fire power to turn half of the country into a parking lot yet they look like the preverbeal deer in the headlights ....and don't expect the media to help in offering a solution yesterday on CNN and FOX they both were trying to attach Al Qaeda to the Somali's...

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No need to apologise, Alex. EO was formed to give the SA Special Forces covert training. That may be why you thought otherwise.

African armies have all the potential to be good armies but it suits the West – and the East – that these armies remain highly politicised, poorly-trained, ill-equipped and badly advised. The soldiers, if well –trained and well-led will outfight anyone as far as I am concerned.

The media does need to take a long, hard look at itself as regards certain fields of reporting. Robby pointed us in the direction of Socrates – but I realise that this is what we would like but it will never be. So, the PMCs need to do their bit as well.

When I find all of the mines the media claimed EO was given, I shall retire for good.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No-one should ever be absolved from doing their jobs, Robby. Least of all those that are expected to inform the citizenry with fair and balanced reporting.

The fluffing around re the US captain captured by the pirates truly boggles the mind…

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

The Fourth Estate long has been corrupted now it's up to us....no pressure :-)

Mind boggling is a understatement if a solution to Somali is not arrived at soon it could cause a already stressed world economy to be pushed over the edge by making world trade resort to 18th century trade routs....talk about a rock and a hard place

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have had my say about pirates, Robby. But, the desire to end it is most certainly not apparent from anyone’s actions – or lack thereof.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

Ive been watching the pirate issue very closely. I too am aghast at the inaction of the US govt. IE, the president to make decisions. He seems too busy apologizing for actions taken to wipe out our current enemies.

There are surely the best and brightest Seals on call, watching on scene probably begging to take action. Getting Spun up only to be jerked back by politicians. Its a shame. I fear America is entereing the redux of the carter administration. We know how that turned out and the resulting decades of disaster.
Im not sure but I think Herodutus ( havent been reading my greek writers in a few years) said, The most hateful grief to all human griefs is this, to have knowledge of the truth but no power over the event.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is truly shocking, Simon.

I had better dig out (or dig up) some old Greek writers as you and Robby are putting me to shame!

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hello Eeben,

Maybe something along the lines of a 40 hour PMC/PSC Academy like the EHS Academy would be useful?

I doubt the big players would pay too much attention (at least at first), but smaller organizations that want to ensure and promote professionalization would probably pay to send their people to a classroom-based series of seminars that touch on all the essentials, the basic fundamentals, that seem to be so lacking in general across the industry at present.

If you were anywhere near the states, I'd say go through Dr. Emery's course; as a starting point for what could be accomplished, I think it gives a great blueprint for what this type of academy would aim to do. The academy really stresses well-roundedness, and I think there are a lot of parallels in attitude and temperament between safety people and military/logistics.

The program has been so successful that many other state universities now have their own that they run.

In other news, Captain Phillips of the Maersk Line has been freed from his captors off the coast of Somalia. At this time, there's not a lot of information, other than there was a "brief firefight" and the hostage-takers on board are dead and Phillips was uninjured.

Something tells me some special forces were involved... :)

Thanks!
Jared

Alex said...

With regard to your entanglement with the media (although perhaps 'victimization' is more accurate) during EO's existence, I was wondering if you could furnish me with more details regarding the apology you eventually received? I don't know any of the details apart from a single sentence on Wikipedia and the mention you made in your interview with Jake, but I'm curious as to what it entailed as I've not come across 'the media' as a whole issuing apologies or making other such gestures. You certainly deserved something after their rampage at your and your colleagues' expense.

Another slightly random question; did you come up with the EO logo, and if so how? Sorry to bombard you with questions in my first ever postings but I can't bring myself to pass up the opportunity to ask these things! I think it's a great design (I've loved the generic 'knight' since I first saw one as a child) and, like the name, it succinctly summed up the company and what it stood for.

One point I forgot to include earlier. I had to pause and have a think when I read the EO Role of Honour in your book. Had those men been serving members of a state military they would likely have their names engraved on a wall or memorial somewhere. I can only assume such tributes do not exist. Hopefully more people will become aware of their names over time.

Regards

Alex

matt said...

Interesting. Actually one of the reasons why I started Feral Jundi, was to compete with the media and correct the record when I could. My other goal was to battle opinion, and give voice to the other side of the debate. The American media is dominated by a very liberal and anti-military mindset, minus a few conservative and pro-military groups. I think both sides are necessary, and I actually pay attention to the arguments from both sides. But both sides, are extremely ignorant about the true value of PMCs and that sucks. So many groups just fumble around with the concept, but always default to the save assumption about the topic. PMCs are bad.

My thoughts on PMCs stem from the one argument that is constantly used by the opposition to the idea. The Max Weber argument, in which he defines what the state is. Here it is, from wikipedia.

In sociology, the state is normally identified with these institutions: in Max Weber's influential definition, it is that organization that "(successfully) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory," which may include the armed forces, civil service or state bureaucracy, courts, and police.

So my counter to the Weberites, is that when a state hires a PMC, that PMC does not exist to wipe out or compete with that state. It exists to serve that state, so that the PMC can make a profit, so it can pay it's employees and enjoy the fruits of it's hard work. And profit is not an evil thing, and I would argue that profit is a necessary thing for the health of a free market. But that is different story.

To me, that monopoly on the legitimate use of force, includes the use of PMC's or PSC's. It is an excellent tool for the state, to add lethality and efficiency to their current security or military apparatus. The only ones that should fear the PMC, are the enemies of that state, and not the state itself. Of course, the state must also have the cash to use a PMC, but cash is essential to raise an army or police force, so there should be no problems with concept of actually paying for the services of a PMC--a military group that is already established and ready to go.

So then this goes back to the legitimate use of force. If PMC use became recognized throughout the world, as 'legitimate force', then we will begin to see a change. Are we legitimate, or are we illegal and criminal, and by whose standards?

Then following this chain of reason, we go back to the institutions of the world, that argue about the legitimacy of PMCs, and their influence on world opinion. Places like the UN, or human rights organizations all play into the debate. But like Eeben pointed out, what is the agendas of those institutions? They are not concerned by losing the monopoly of legitimate force, they are concerned with losing money. So how do these folks get their opinions of PMC's?

The media, the public, the bloggers, etc. All of these opinions and thoughts on the matter, feed into the debate. But when it is only one side of the debate, that continues to present just their opinion, over and over again, then you can start to see a trend. There is no one able to step up, with a counter opinion, or those that do, are such a small group, that we barely register.

Going back to blogs and conservative versus liberal media outlets. It is important to have balance in debate, and in this industry, there is no balance. And it mostly comes from a vacuum of knowledge and genuine discussion about the legitimate use of force as it applies to PMCs. But because none of the companies get this, the vacuum of knowledge continues, and clowns with pens continue to fill that gap.

We are starting to see more new media come up, but it is my opinion that more of us need to step in and give some attention to the other side of the debate. That is healthy, that is true debate, and that is what will truly compete with the Weberite fueled anti-PMC crowd.

I also like to challenge this same crowd with a few key questions. If no other armies of the world, would step in to save the day in Rwanda during that genocide, then why not use Executive Outcomes to stop that crime against humanity? Was EO that evil or wrong, to not be used to stop this horrific stain of an event in the history of mankind? Pfffft. What is this thing that the UN continues to promote, called R2P or responsibility to protect? We should call it R2LTOW or responsibility to look the other way.

And now we are in a situation were piracy is the issue, and rampant at that. The solutions so far, have been dismal, and yet again I ask if we are doing everything in our power to stop this crime against humanity? Sadly, no. Although now that the genie called violence, is out of the bottle, and we have drawn blood against these pirates, I wonder if the tide might turn? Or maybe we should continue to run away from all things somali, because obviously a few guys armed with AKs and RPGs in fishing boats, are far more superior than anything the modern world can bring to the fight.

One last deal. Eeben, I think your blog, and everyone else's blog that deals with providing the other side of the debate, are essential. No longer can a news agency maintain the monopoly on your story, through the means of rapid publishing. The blog is certainly a tool to combat Media misinformation and attacks. I salute your efforts, and will cheer on anyone else out there that has the guts to take these folks on.
The news agencies and paid hacks, in my opinion, fear new media. Much like the record industry feared MP 3 players, or the phone companies feared VOIP, or the Movie Making industry feared digital film making, the news agencies are now fearing the power of online publishing. Mostly because they cannot figure a way to profit from it, and because they can't control new media. I can say what I want, Eeben can say what he wants, Jake can say what he wants, Tim can say what he wants, and none of the main stream media can control us. The reader also recognizes the value of a blog, and not just because of the good reading, but because of the opportunity to comment and interact with the author about the subject.

Which begs the question. If a journalist wrote a story about Eeben, would you as the reader take that at face value, or would you be curious to come to Eeben's site to ask him directly? I don't know about you guys, but I like to get the info straight from the horses mouth. So Eeben's blog, is the counter to anything an attacker might write, because now the reader has the opportunity to get the other side of the story and interact with the subject of the story. That is powerful stuff, and blogs can be very effective tools for battling with the media. There are company CEOs that keep blogs, just for this reason alone, but you will mostly see this in other industries. Eeben's blog is the closest thing to this concept that I can think of in this industry, and that is pretty cool and smart if you ask me.

Monkey Spawn said...

Simon & Robby's points about the biased media are well made. However, the blatantly biased media are not cause for concern. Does anyone really think O'Reilly or Michael Moore are real journalists with balance? They should be seeen in the same light as the Marx Brothers or Three Stooges - for entertainment only.

Instead, it is the journalists and media with pretence of balance, but pushing subtle agendae that we should be concerned with.

As my aphorism would go if I was a Greek philosopher: I don't fear enemy, for my knowledge determines the effect of his power; I fear the friend with enmity behind his smile.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sounds like an idea that may need looking into, Jared. Perhaps you, Jake, Matt, Robby and some others should investigate the option?

As regards the rescue of Capt Phillips – all I can say is “excellent!”

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very well known journalist told me, after reading the apology, that it was akin to committing journalistic suicide, Alex. When there is a reprint of the EO book, it will be included. I will see how I can add it to the blog. But, that apology made me realise that there are some journalists who have courage and integrity.

The logo was my idea when I started EO. I love horses and I love knights so it was a combination of the two. That logo is also on my coat of arms.

Had the men we sadly lost been members of a serving army, they would no doubt have received decorations for valour. We made a memorial on which every man’s name was engraved and it is on the farm of one of the men who took over when I left the company.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The work you, Jake and others do is invaluable, Matt, and I believe you are reaching a lot of people who would otherwise not be reached.

Any government that hires a PMC does so with a contract. Additionally, when EO was contracted, we went into those countries without weapons and the contracting government gave us what we asked for – sometimes. Much of what we asked for they couldn’t supply and we had to make do with what we had. Anyone who thinks that 500 men will defeat a host governments army, take over the country and want to run it really need their heads read.

Ironically, those who moan about PMCs making profit also make profit either through salaries or through their actions in the market. Sadly, some of them claim the right that only they may make a profit.

By the time EO was called in, the contracting government was close to being defeated. They had been abandoned by all those who then shouted the loudest and wanted to be there. Angola is a good point to argue on: the US government shouted at EO’s presence and with pressure from various other governments and international institutions, tried to force EO out. When we left, who arrived but MPRI… but they didn’t last very long as the Angolans saw through them.

The agendas you point out are, in my opinion, driven by a lust for power and financial greed. One just has to look at the gross incompetence of the UN, the inability of the West to stop piracy, the current conflicts in Africa to name but a few.

We should work at making others see what is really happening and how it can be stopped.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That is for concern, Monkey Spawn, but that is an obstacle we need to evaluate carefully and find a way of dealing with it. It is true that the media is one of the most effective weapons available in terms of influencing people. We need to use what options we have to counter the disinfo and influence operations run via the media and expose their agendas where we can – or at least set our side of the story.

Ah, the enmity behind the smile…I know a lot of those people. I will still find my Greek one day.

Rgds,

Eeben

OzWest said...

Eeben,

Still following your blog with great interest - given my background is LEA/PSC based my comments might be better suited to a piece entitled "The media and the PSC", but may be nonetheless still applicable.

In today’s world the media, in one form or another, are (almost) omni-present. Not only do we have major networks and syndicated journalism, but lone 'journalists' with cell phone cameras are also an emerging reality - what happens in 'darkest' Africa can be on CNN that night! This is an indisputable fact that PMC's and PSC's (inter alia) must contend with.

During my LEA years I received invaluable media training from news media representatives and gained insight into what drives and motivates journalists. From that point onwards spending a little time developing a media strategy become a key part of all incidents and operations I was involved in (including LEA and PSC activities) - with considerable success. To this end the comments of 'userdude' are very relevant.

In short, contending with the media will be a reality at some time for all PMC's and PSC's - so plan for it. One antipodean politician used to describe it as "feeding the chooks"!

I also agree with your comments about not using Intell personnel to do PR work, but their inputs in devising a media strategy will be crucial to any operational commander. Also a dedicated PR person must be appointed.

Whilst not every PMC or PSC commander will not have to deal with the type of media sabotage that EO clearly encountered, one media-savvy LEA commander I knew adroitly marginalized a particularly troublesome journalist at a media conference by welcoming everyone, and THEN in front of all assembled, requiring that journalist leave the premises on the basis of his biased and incorrect reporting. A devastating move that had lasting effects.

I have personally witnessed journalists berate another journalist for breaking 'no go' areas that had been set in a press conference. Further I have first hand experience of the many benefits (and occasional detriments) to be obtained from developing a core of 'trusted' contacts within the media.

It is still true that many if not most journalists are 'generalists' as 'Monkey Spawn' pointed out, but the over-riding lesson should be that a developed and evolving media strategy is infinitely preferable to being forced into damage control.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are absolutely correct in your comment that PMCs/PSCs will need to contend with the media, OzWest. Perhaps I expressed myself badly, but Intelligence gains are extremely important to the entire PR effort. Intelligence will also allow pre-emptive PR/media action to be taken.

I like the move to ask a journalist to leave a briefing. That is something that ought to be done more regularly when dealing with unscrupulous reporters.

This posting has certainly drawn some very interesting and valuable comments/insights.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

"A significant contributor to the American’s defeat in Vietnam and an impending effective defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan is their failure to deal with public opinion at home."
That comment is called hitting the nail right on the head. We see it everyday here in the states in regards to the left leaning media.

"Don’t tell my mother I am a journalist" That addage has been around for everyone Eeben, Many years ago I heard it substituting "Helicopter Pilot".. Funny thing is I never played the Piano.

Your response as to keeping on top of things and be prepared to get shotgunned in a heartbeat if you dont have the right answer before the question is asked has to be so very true.
Even then I see our media Spin things to meet their agenda. Given that I feel that our military should restrict media coverage in combat zones. Dishonest Journalism has caused us a lot of grief and futher the release of some tactics have no doubt resulted in loss of life.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I never claimed to have penned the quote “Don’t tell…”, Grumbleguts but it has been used in virtually every profession. But, as journalists shape public opinion, we should not give them a free licence to write whatever they want without being challenged to substantiate their story.

Dishonest journalism, muck like some dishonest PMCs/PSCs will be with us for a long time to come. But that does not mean we should let them get away with it. In SA the media sadly casued more damage that is recognised…

Rgds,

Eeben

Виктор said...

Hi Eeben,

I was shocked the first time I read this article. In a business like this its common to face such negative reception of the media, especially the sensationalist one. Is by this reason that I am conducting my dissertation on PMC's on the African continent and the issue of conflict diamonds. The primarily focus is how PMC's contribute to the involvement of the fight against conflict diamonds. Respectfully I request some advisement on this issue, I know it will be a great collaboration to my dissertation. My name is Victor D. Chaparro Miranda and I'm a undergraduate student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

I hope you receive this message and will be able to be part of my dissertation.

My email address is: maca_dragonetti@hotmail.com

Thanks!

Respectfully,
Victor D. Chaparro Miranda

P.S. I had a hard time to find this site on the web, but every effort is worth the cause.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is good to have you joining us, Victor.

I think we all accept that if we act in a manner that evokes criticism, then we should be able to take that criticism on the chin and learn from it. Where it becomes unacceptable to any company is when the criticism is based on lies, disinformation and hidden agendas. For that reason alone I shall fight the media and whoever else has anything to say that is untrue. Ironically, those very journalists (in SA anyway) who were at the forefront of the smear campaigns against EO and myself are now nowhere to be seen. I think that they have served their purposes and are now looking to find alternative employment where they can continue to be paid to lie.

Ironically, the UN (that bloated, ineffective, mismanaged organisation) that makes a lot of puff about conflict diamonds seem to be allowing some of their members to do quite well out of the illicit diamond trade. After all, they were one of the organisations who so loved to speak about blood diamonds…

Let me know how I can assist you. If I am able, I shall try.

Rgds,

Eeben